Dear Evil HR Lady,
The company I work for, like many high-tech IT companies, has a guy who is very skilled and inventive but who behaves like a madman. He insults embarrasses, and abuses fellow staff -- to the extent that some of them get depressed and cry. He is never on time with anything, causing confusion, and he is tyrannical. Anyone who tried to work for him quits. Whatever prototype or half-finished product he has created may be novel, but they are typically unstable, causing dissatisfaction among our early-user clients and driving them to change suppliers. The products take 2-3 times longer than normal to get into the marketplace. He listens to no one, especially not sales and marketing personnel.
The executive management seems to think he is indispensable (like themselves), and our nightmare goes on year after year. I've seen IT staff at other companies who are twice who are highly inventive, develop products that work right the first time, and make money for the company. They may be on the nerdy and shy side, but at least they are nice. I think it is wrong and unethical to allow the above.
[My personal view is that] if the abusive IT person is retained, he should be carefully locked up in a lab and supervised by specially trained guards. In fact, they have put him in an an office that is far out of the way, but they forgot to chain him.
What is your view? What can be done?
The smart thing to do here is to find a new job and quit. That is what many of your coworkers have done and what everyone who has contact with this employee should do. In fact, I think you should look directly at the suppliers your customers have fled to, as they most likely have a better attitude towards work.
But the real question is, why on earth does a company's management ignore and even encourage this type of behavior? It's not uncommon for there to be an "untouchable" person in the office who everybody but the boss can't stand. So what makes the bosses blind?
First of all, as you said, the guy in question really is skilled and smart and has some great ideas. The powers that be are aware of these great ideas and then the see the end failures. But instead of saying, "Gee, this guy can't execute anything to save his soul!" they say, "Holy cow, think how bad off we'd be if we didn't have this great idea in the first place!" Or, "Oh no! We just lost Client X. If we didn't have this guy's good ideas, surely we'd lose Client Y, too." They flat out don't see that the source of these "great" ideas is also the source of the problems.
And in management's mind, the mass exodus from this guy's department must be due to people not understanding his "genius" rather than the fact that he's a jerk. Because you lack the power to terminate this employee, company leaders are terrified to function without him, and he makes everyone miserable, it's time for you to go. Let them continue to dig their own graves. The chances of them recognizing and fixing the problem is slim to none.
Have a workplace dilemma? Send your questions to EvilHRLady@gmail.com.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user CheciA p